When I first became a father 11 years ago, the reality of it didn’t hit me until several days after the birth. Like most fathers, for me, the run-up and aftermath of my little Ian’s being born was so fraught with the usual tensions and a million operational details that I didn’t really have time to take it all in. It was only when we’d come home that I realized how much had changed.
Like all new parents, suddenly even our sleep was not our own; for six or seven weeks, I was going through the working day looking punch-drunk- until at last my son’s sleep cycle settled down. But more than that, I was unprepared to be absolutely responsible for someone so vulnerable. It was a daunting prospect.
My transition to fatherhood was nothing like my transition from being single to being unmarried- which has been traumatic for my mom- but for me, it was simple. My girlfriend and I had been together for five years and life with her is something I want to forget all my life. I felt betrayed, scorned at the same time. I knew she has her own plans.
But becoming a father is something I never counted on, nor ever dreamt about. I had female friends who had the names of their entire kids ready a decade before they got married. Not me. I thought about fatherhood the way that adolescents think about death-in other words, they’d rather not, and if they do, it’s always in terms of something that was going to happen to somebody else.
And then all of a sudden there he was- Adrian Santino de Dios, a bawling infant who sometimes took an hour or two crying before going to sleep at night. After a year of living in an apartment with just the two of us and a nanny, my life were not my own. That took a little adjusting too.
But little by little, the worries eased. I’ve got better and better at taking care of the little tyke, and I took a bit of pride that I could put my son to sleep better than his nanny (those were the days where I can afford to have a nanny, he he he). But more than that, somehow a switch went on in my head, and what had been a responsibility became a joy. What I realized was this: you don’t love your children; you fall in love with them. That was exactly what happened to me.
Adrian changed my entire life. Not only did I become a good dad. I became a good son to my own mom. Before I had him, I was self centered, I left home, stayed in an apartment, and only worried about me. My dad was long gone then. I saw my mom on a few weekends, and those were few and far between.
I was out of work when I had Adrian, but I wasn’t worried. As soon as I got back on my feet, I begin to land my own business, it’s not my usual cup of tea, though, as I used to work as an event organizer where I was almost always up for more than 20 hours a day. Still, I was able to provide Adrian with the things he needed as he grew up. We are happy.
I still remember, I cried softly when I had to confine him in the hospital because of Dengue. I saw the nurses put an I.V needle through his little arm. Whenever the doctors or nurses came into his hospital room, he would cry. He was afraid they would hurt him. To assure him, I whispered in his ear. “Daddy’s here, I won’t let them hurt you.” It was enough to make him stop crying and sleep peacefully in my arms.
I prayed to God to make Adrian well and to give me more strength and courage. Thankfully, Adrian was declared out of danger. I vowed to do everything to make him healthy.
It was difficult for me when he started to ask about his mother. He was just four years old and in nursery school. “Dad, why is that my schoolmates have moms and I don’t? he asked when I came home from work one night. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t think the question would come this early.
With careful consideration of his tender age, I explained that his mom could not be with us because she has her own plans maybe to find a work and start a new life where she is right now. Maybe one day soon, I told Adrian, he would meet his mother. I was surprised by his mature analysis of the situation. “No, Dad,” he said, “I think things are the way they are because that is how God wants it to be. All I know is that you love me and I love you!” I cried and hugged him. I told him I loved him so much that whatever happens, I will always be there for him.
A proud father, I would note how my son would make funny remarks at the age of two or grasps difficult concepts at the age of four. And more and more I saw him as a gift of GOD gave to me. I could feel the joy of responsibility for the first time in my life.
I read from a novel and I do believe that “A child is a guest in the house, to be loved and respected-never possessed, because he belongs to GOD. How wonderful, sane, and therefore true.
“Strangely difficult” is exactly how I feel about fatherhood, because it will never be easy.
I believe that if a child is nurtured well he or she will grow up to become a responsible citizen.
But even during moments like that, I would not give up a moment of fatherhood. As I wrote to an old friend a few weeks ago: “Even on my worst day, my son Adrian Santino are to me miracle and grace.” I love You, My One and Only Ian.